Category Archives: health

Let’s Question All Versions of the Myth of Perfect Motherhood

I would call it a “pet peeve,” but the stakes are higher: I can’t stand policy arguments based on inaccurate or misrepresented historical facts. My latest peeve-trigger? Claire Howorth’s cover essay in Time magazine, critiquing “The Goddess Myth: How a Vision of Perfect Motherhood Hurts Moms.”

Now, I agree with much of Howorth’s criticism of the unrealistic standards of contemporary motherhood. It’s a main theme of my forthcoming book, Miscarriage and the Quest for the Perfect Pregnancy. But she and I part ways over the role of medicine and public health in our current conundrum…

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Face to Face with Sharrona Pearl

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sharrona Pearl about her new book, Face/On: Transplants and the Ethics of the Other. Below are excerpts from our conversation, which ranged from disability, to artistry, to parenting, to sex transitions, all illuminated by Sharrona’s insights from the history and culture of face transplants…

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Eighth-Grade Innovator Helps Girls Focus on Class Periods, Not Menstrual Periods

“If men could menstruate,” Gloria Steinem observed wryly in an iconic 1978 essay for Ms. magazine, “[s]anitary supplies would be federally funded and free.” Surely, too, tampons and pads would be stocked in every public bathroom just like toilet paper.

Instead here we are, almost 40 years and a powerful women’s movement later, and women and girls still have to pack their supplies into pockets and purses, and figure out how to have them handy at that time of the month…

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I May Not Heal, But I Will Live Better Thanks to Occupational Therapy

Last year I learned how to chop a carrot with my eyes closed. While being filmed. Sounds like one of those crazy reality cooking shows, like “Cutthroat Kitchen,” doesn’t it?

Actually, I was in the model kitchen at the Lighthouse Guild for the Blind in New York City, and the filmmaker was Joseph Lovett. We were shooting a brief documentary designed to teach ophthalmologists when and how to refer patients for low vision therapy. I was grateful for the care offered to me by the Lighthouse Guild, and I had agreed to be a sample patient for the film…

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That Time of the Month in Victorian America

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine asked me to write a blog post about how women handled menstruation in the nineteenth century, as historical background for an episode of PBS’s Civil War medical drama Mercy Street. Our stereotype of the Victorians is that they were delicate ladies swooning on settees during their periods. As I explain, that was not the reality for most women. Read the post here.

Referendum on a Life in the Woods

For three decades, my dad’s brothers framed houses. The three of them had a small construction business in rural Connecticut. The eldest sometimes led projects as a general contractor, and other times they worked as subcontractors.

With their skills and their self-made business, they also built cozy, modest houses for themselves. That part of Connecticut isn’t wealthy. They and their neighbors worked hard to pull together comfortable homes out of a limited rural job market, relatively inexpensive real estate, and a frugal lifestyle…

Like many small businesses, my uncles’ construction firm didn’t have health insurance…What would Obamacare have meant to them, and to their lives?…

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Nurse-Midwives are With Women, Walking a Middle Path to a Safe and Rewarding Birth

In childbirth politics as in all politics, extreme viewpoints make the news, and sensible centrists are ignored. A couple of years ago, Ricki Lake provoked a firestorm of debate about home birth with her film, The Business of Being Born, which showcased gloriously crunchy New York City home births, and made the case for the home birth option. Obstetricians responded with censorious anger, shouting at Lake via condescending statements from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Recently, obstetrician and blogger Amy Tuteur published Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting, in which she made fun of women stupid enough to believe that they might have a better birth experience without an epidural, and excoriated anyone who would refuse any of the bells and whistles of modern obstetrics. Her title was a response to journalist Jennifer Block’s, Pushed: The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care, an exposé of callous obstetricians who damaged women and their babies with the thoughtless overuse of standard obstetric interventions such as the induction agent cytotec and the drastic overuse of major abdominal surgery (cesarean section).

All this shouting. Is it getting us anywhere? Mightn’t there be some middle path for women who see the appeal of “natural” birth, or who at least would like to minimize their chances of cesarean section, but who are not confident about giving birth without immediate medical back-up?1 Could there possibly be a way to combine the emergency backstop of modern medicine with the caring values of home-birth midwifery?…

Read the rest at Nursing Clio